Good SEO, web listings and mobile-friendliness are must-haves for any operator.
By Grace Vargas
Morningside Ministries Senior Living Communities has offered affordable retirement living for seniors since 1961. Today, two of our three campuses are located in San Antonio, Texas, the most competitive senior living market in the nation. In 2014, we made the decision to place a bigger emphasis on our digital marketing efforts to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world.
Our first step was to improve our website. How your website looks and feels can either earn you new residents or send them running. Our website wasn’t the oldest in town, but in a few short years it felt distinctly outdated.
We vetted and selected the online marketing firm Leadhub, then went to the drawing board with a list of needs. We found that our website needed a clean look that would outlast trends, look great for mobile users and generate new leads. During this process, we learned that search engine optimization (SEO) played into the design of and content of a website.
Marketers everywhere will tell you that content is king, and with good reason. Google wants to make sure that the top-ranking websites for each search result are relevant and user-friendly. Our goal was to feature informative and educational content that would inspire trust and interest in our communities. To cover our bases, we spent time crafting content with a healthy combination of commonly searched phrases and senior living industry terms.
The importance of mobile
After knowing what we wanted to say, we had to make sure the information was displayed cleanly across all devices. Not only did our new website need to be mobile-friendly to avoid a Google penalty, it needed to be user friendly to generate mobile leads.
The majority of our independent living and assisted living residents use smartphones, as do their adult children. When designing our new website, we had to create a mobile-friendly online inquiry process with the least amount of mental friction for potential residents and their families. After implementation, we used screen-recording plugins to monitor user interaction, discover pain points and correct them.
Monitoring website traffic and conversions confirmed the importance of our efforts. So far in 2017, 48.26 percent of our website traffic and 65.56 percent of our lead conversions came from mobile users.
Cleaning up online citations was our next big SEO push. Our goal was to ensure that the name, address, phone number, website URL and email address for each location were uniform across the web.
Online listings everywhere from Google Maps to smaller online directories were claimed and updated. With multiple campus and office locations, this required months of coordination between our digital marketing team, third-party websites and on-location staff to accomplish. Once completed, we were supplying internet users with relevant and uniform information, no matter where they found us.
Getting on the map
Now it was time to focus our efforts on being “findable.” If we were going to show up in search results, we had to compete with large national websites like Caring.com and A Place For Mom, which dominated the first page. The new design of our website coupled with online citations were a huge step in the right direction and gave us a solid base upon which we could further our efforts. But it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
Our most immediate results came in the form of map listings. With one or more of our locations appearing in map results for relevant search terms, we saw an increase in online leads. We built upon that positive momentum with high-quality web, print and social campaigns designed to drive traffic to our website. We bolstered those efforts with a stream of fresh and informational blog content to keep users engaged.
Optimized map listings were our not-so-secret weapon for appearing faster in our ultra-competitive search results.
While we continued building up our website’s authority through quality links and associations, we turned to pay-per-click advertising to reach even more potential customers. We began with a small budget and targeted specific needs through shorter campaigns. While search/text ads performed well, we found that display ads were the most cost-effective option for us while performing incredibly well with our audience.
This will come as no surprise, but in the end we always have to justify our marketing campaigns and their cost. By implementing Google Analytics on our new website and tracking everything from phone calls to email submissions, we could clearly see when our efforts were paying off and when we needed to make adjustments.
Being able to identify which leads turned into residents, donations, volunteers or new employees helped us to build stronger audiences and strategies.
What we appreciate most about digital marketing in our industry is its flexibility. Building our brand, earning new residents, and attracting new employees will always be the driving force behind our marketing efforts.
With digital marketing, we feel confident that we can keep up with the ever-evolving digital world.
Grace Vargas is corporate media manager for Morningside Ministries Senior Living Communities, a non-profit, faith-based seniors housing provider. She joined the organization in 2014 as a copywriter. Vargas graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts.